As the season finale of Critical Hit: A Major Spoilers Dungeons and Dragons podcast draws ever nearer, and the number of questions about campaign building flood in, it brings up an interesting question about game settings.  Do you like to use the Wizards of the Coast campaign settings, create your own world (including skinning monsters), or a combination of both – the Tolkien-esque fantasy world, using monsters as described in the Monster Manual, but the setting is completely your own?

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[poll id=”208″]
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28 Comments

  1. For 10 years now, I’ve always stuck with using my own worlds and adapting creatures from the manuals.

    I do it because the creatures in the books have been play-tested to a degree that something I pull out of my ass has not. I can of course warp the creature to be thematically appropriate to the campaign setting, which helps create a better sense of a world for my players.

    Just placing creatures from manuals as they are really feels like “monster clip art” to me. When I look at an encounter I imagine the antagonists, construct the reason why they would engage the party, and then give them appropriate abilities to their background. I would then find level and challenge appropriate creatures that resemble that and go from there. If there was some sort of encounter-specific gimmick I wanted to incorporate, I’d piecemeal portions of other level-appropriate creatures and incorporate them into the encounter.

    It makes things more dynamic, and allows for more role-playing opportunities when you can better-connect the battles to the storyline.

  2. The wording of this poll makes me think it is for DMs only. However in a lot of cases PCs do help pick the setting. Further more I often see DMs forced to do a setting that is way off their radar just to make a group of players happy.

    So yeah I tend to favor a custom world so there is no questions of cannon or preconceptions about culture etc.

    However I tend to use or want to play against what I would call the “classic” monsters from the manuals. I figured when people played D&D they wanted to face Owlbears, Displacer Beasts and Beholders. I saw that as part of the package along with the tables and the dice. I may have to play with that paradigm more.

  3. Waaaaay back when I DM’d I loved to draw the maps, so my own world was the way to go. Apparently where my adventures took place was absolutely overrun with Gnolls. Man I loved Gnolls. Gnolls everywhere.

  4. I really enjoy establishing my own setting. I’m currently working on a game using the Pathfinder rules that takes place in both modern day and Victorian England with plenty of fantasy elements (think a cross between World of Darkness, Assassin’s Creed and Larry Correia’s Monster Hunter International). I’m using the monsters in the Bestiary as they’re written combat-wise, but the setting and interactions are something completely different.

  5. I chose other because I do a little of everything. About the only thing I don’t really do is “the Rodrigo method”. Through my three decades of D&D playing and GM’ing, I’ve done quite a bit of creating my own world, monsters, character races, spells, magical items, etc. I’ve also leaned heavily on official publisher and third-party adventures, settings, rules sets, etc.

    Currently, I’m GM’ing a large group that consists of some long-time friends that I played a lot of second Ed. D&D and three teenagers, my sons and a nephew. We’re using 4th edition rules but the game is set in the Dragonlance world in the Spring of 351 AC (the nerds will know what this means). The first couple of adventures for this campaign have been WotC produced modules. In short, quite a mish-mash.

    I’m also GM’ing a game with my sons and nephew that is set in the Forgotten Realms world using 4th edition rules but set in the second edition timeline and using adventures that I created from scratch years ago and have re-tooled for the current rule-set. Another mish-mash.

    Finally, I’m ramping up preparations for my next campaign which will be set in the game world I created decades ago and I hope to make it a “criss-crossing the globe” epic adventure. To that end, I’m picking through the Oriental Adventures and Arabian Adventures rules from first and second edition to see how they can be ported over because my game world contains settings based on those themes. If I can port things over easily, I’ll probably stick to fourth edition rules. If not, I may give Pathfinder a look or perhaps even go back to 2nd edition.

    So, long story short, a little bit of everything.

    • Yup, that is my call as well. I usually start in a home-brewed world with vanilla D&D monsters, and then add and re-skin as I like. I also usually subtract the splat-books, as they are often not that well balanced.

  6. I chose “Wizards of the Coast pre-packaged worlds” although I like to skin and adapt them. And hate “Forgotten Realms”. I do not want to derail that but let just say that I would punch Ed Greenwood in the face and choke Elminster to death. But to come back to the original question, world building is one of the most time consuming task of being a GM. Good settings give you plenty of possibilities to have your overarching plot inserted in their story. And since it’s imaginary, you can add or remove anything you want from these settings!

      • Well Greyhawk is like the generic setting for 3.5, if I remember so yes I used it. The generic setting for 4e does not have any name and I used it as well. However, my main campaign is set in Eberron. Eberron is the good way to design a setting. It leaves so many doors open and many thread and hooks hanging with which you can build your adventures. FR is the total opposite. It closes every door and plot lines. And have horribly castrating protagonists like Elminster because no matter if they reach level 30, your PC’s won’t be able to be as powerful as him!

        But yeah, I should not have said that I would puch Mr Greenwood in the face, it’s bad to attack senior citizens.

  7. I picked other. I try to squish scifi tropes in to the fantasy setting (the Rodrigo Corollary). These usually come from Scifi novels that I live but friends haven’t read.

  8. Picked “other”. One of our old longer-running campaigns was a mix of pre-made and custom, but on a bigger scale. We would actually go through several on a single quest, with each world having effects on us (some would give stat bonuses to magic users, some might hinder magic users but boost non-magic users, some would even change our races and thus our entire stat sheet for the duration of the visit, etc). It was a LOT of extra work on the part of our DM, but it was one of the funnest, most entertaining games I’ve ever played.

    While the majority of the worlds we played in were custom made, occasionally it would be a mix of custom and premade just to cut the work load. Very rarely did we use an existing world, not counting the group we had that was based around playing in existing campaigns and worlds.

  9. One of the greatest chefs in my contry said that a cookbook should be read in the couch – not in the kitchen.
    I read all the modules, then take what ever I fancy and bring it to the table.

    The last option should have been: “All the above.”

  10. Other. We get our monsters from Bestiaries. Pathfinder is awesome! D&D 3.75 and it is 3.5 compatible.
    This is the only D&D played by me. Our GM stated with the “Chianmail” pamflets at the start and has been playing for 30+ years.

  11. Other, mainly because you couldn’t PAY me to touch the 4th edition garbage that WotC puts out. I’ve already cancelled my WoW subscription, why would I want to play WoW Tabletop? Yes, I’m bitter…

    Anywho, for other systems (yeah, 3.5 is ok, and Pathfinder is better, but sometimes I can’t shake the old 1st and 2nd edition roots) I definitely use my own world and monsters, although some of the monsters are patterned after those in the MM, albet usually with wildly different ecologies.

  12. Bill the Seeker on

    I start with my own world and mostly populate it with standard monsters. Then I create new ones from scratch and reskin others to suit the setting. For 20. Years I altered existing modules interspersed with my own creations as the plot required. In the last 5 years I have been running WOD and GURPS USING AN OLD D&D setting for GURPS AND THE Ultimate premade setting for WOD; the real world.

  13. Mine is a strange hybrid; I have an overall plan of how I want to get from beginning to end of the campaign and then populate it with re-skinned adventures that I like a lot, not necessarily from d&d but from other systems / genres as well, chuck in a liberal dose of home-brew and mix in with a combination of straight from the book and re-skinned creatures.

  14. My campaign falls under the “Other” option. We play Castles and Crusades (similar to the original D&D) and play straight up Middle Earth with quests going into major places like Moria and Mirkwood.

    The characters encounter a lot of Tolkien monsters, a lot of home-brewed monsters and a few D&D monsters tossed in.

  15. Camoren Jennings on

    I use AD&D era Forgotten Realms. I did not like the changes made to the overall world power balances in 3.0, 3.5 and 4th. Flying shadow cities? no thanks! Azoun of Cormyr squashed by a crashing dragon? not interested. Though I have upgraded to the new rules versions when they have come out (currently playing the essentials take on the rules) and have purchased some realms supplements since AD&D as a shortcut to updating information based on the new rules systems (e.g. realms specific MMs).

  16. I voted other because I switch between sometimes using the Rodrigo Method and completely creating my own monsters from scratch. I will tend to base them off the ideas from the monster manual etc, but compeltely end up changing their attacks and stats. Admittedly though, I have a party of six PCs and that includes two leaders. They need a lot of damage to make any kind of impression.

  17. I use various methods, some of Rodrigo’s, but with the players I lead sometimes I use characters from old & new cartoons, movies, etc, the characters are melded into the gaming format with the help from third party RPG books I have as well as a few D&D and other TSR RPG books. Nothing more freaky than having a character from cartoon Inhumaniods like 40 ft Decompose, with the power of zombification touch rise from the goo of a swamp and cause all sorts of mayhem,(worse than that guy from a certain”popular” insurance company commercial) . It helps me to cut down time on character generation when you don’t have the time to come up with new villains, heroes, or npcs…..

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